California congressional race could help tilt House control

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What could be one of the most competitive House races in the country kicks off in California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley, where a Democratic assembly on Monday became the latest candidate to announce a bid to oust Republican US Rep.

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The heavily Latino, strongly Democratic 21st District has been a perennial battleground, and next year’s results are likely to play out which party controls the House. Democrats have 220 seats in the chamber, Republicans 212, with three vacancies.

While the size of the district and its political color may change, a commission is still working on the adjustment of boundary lines as part of a once-a-decade re-evaluation, which accounts for population changes.


Five-term Assembly member Rudy Salas formally announced that he would enter the race during a kickoff event in his hometown of Bakersfield, where he was the first Latino to serve on City Council. He joins a long list of Democratic candidates that includes Delano Mayor Brian Osorio, former Assemblyman Nicole Parra and Angel Lara, a former aide to California Democratic Sen. Valladao also faces challenges from within his own party.

Salas said in a statement that he “wants to ensure that Washington once again delivers for the Central Valley.”

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This district is politically bizarre. Democrats hold a major lead in voter registration – 43% compared to 27% for Republicans. But Republican Valladao held the seat from 2013 to January 2019 after losing to Democrat TJ Cox. Valladao then took the seat in a rematch with Cox in 2020.

Salas is considered a moderate, although Republicans immediately attacked him as out of step with the district. “The last thing the Central Valley needs is another tax-raising, liberal politician,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Torun Sinclair.

Despite a lopsided Democratic registration edge, Valdo has proven to be durable, highlighting a bipartisan streak. Democrat Joe Biden took an 11-point lead over then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Valladao was never a Trump loyalist, and the former president’s continued influence on the GOP could prove difficult for Congressmen, who are one of a handful of Republicans remaining in the House to support Trump’s impeachment.

Valladao did not endorse then-candidate Trump in 2016, but then backed his re-election four years later. Valladao, however, broke with Trump’s White House several times, including criticizing the administration for family separation at the border. He participated in 2020 as “an independent problem solver” and highlighted his work with former President Barack Obama on water issues in the agricultural-belt region in an ad.

He has called Trump a driving force in the January 6 Capitol rebellion. “Trump’s provocative rhetoric was an un-American, abhorrent and completely unpardonable crime,” Valdao said.

Signs of friction are already emerging in the nationally important race. In a recent interview with conservative talk show host John Fredericks, Trump complained about GOP financial aid going to Veladao and other House members who voted to impeach him. In an apparent reference to Vladao, Trump said he is “much more than a Democrat, perhaps, more than a Republican.”


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